Tag Archives: working out

Training the Monkeys: Gym Etiquette

Most gyms are a mixture of people and ages. You will have the guys (and when I use “guys” I use it in the non gender-specific way, referring to a group of people) who are into body building. Yet others are there to give their hearts a good workout and make them strong. Other people will be working on keeping fit or losing weight. And who knows, there may a few whose main purpose is to socialize or get out of the house for a while.

My gym very much encompasses all of this. It’s a community gym and very multi-ethnic, which I quite like. It’s not just for the white folk. There are very few people who seem to have spent their money on getting the latest and trendiest gym attire with matching jackets and shoes. It’s not a bad size gym and there is a small balcony, plus a small room where people tend to do cool-down exercises on mats or balls.

Sometimes we all act like monkeys, and there are a few who feel they have to screech or fling poo, with disregard to all the other denizens. First and foremost, unless it’s your own home or you own the gym, you have to share. Sharing doesn’t just mean doing your own thing and everyone else can move around you. It means considering the space you use and how your use affects others.

The cool-down room can fit four people on mats (maybe five) at most. If I’m the only one in there I won’t set my mat up by the door so that every subsequent person has to step over me. I’ll not set up in the middle so that only two other people will fit in. I’ll set up farthest from the door, near the wall, leaving as much space for those who come in and not presuming I have it all to myself.

I’ll try to work within the space of my mat, with about 8-12 inches on either side. I grab a ball and a medicine ball and keep them close. When I’m done, I return them promptly to where they belong so others can use them. Then I go back to my mat. Otherwise, someone might be looking for the ball that I won’t be using but will have it in my possession for another ten minutes. When I’m done my cool-down, I hang the mat up. If someone is doing a set, I’ll wait until they are done before I move by. People will often will let me by, so I always say thanks.

Most gyms now have papertowels and spray bottles to wipe down equipment and remove sweat. Not only does it keep the smell down but it can help preserve the equipment. So I wipe down the mat. Many people don’t wipe down or return equipmen, which makes it an inconvenience for otehrs. This goes for benches, as well as bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines.

I return exercise bands and free weights, mats and boards, to where they belong when I’m done. I don’t leave them in the middle of the room. There are stands for the free weights with the smaller hex weights on top. Often I go to put back my weight and someone has set a 50-lb weight on the top that’s clearly marked for the hexes. I can’t lift that weight and the one I’m holding won’t fit on the other racks. So what do I do? Often there is a  gym attendant. Otherwise, I have make do or ask someone if they can move it for me.

I don’t tend to use the bench presses but there are guys who drop weights on the floor or equipment. It’s audibly jarring and of course damaging to the machines and equipment. It also makes me wonder if these people are dangerous to themselves or others. If they’re hurrying so much they could potentially drop a 45-pound weight on someone’s toes.

General politeness to other gym patrons also goes a long way. Someone standing by a machine might be taking a minute’s breather in between sets. A minute is okay but five are not to hog a machine. I’ll ask if they’re using it and on the other end, if I’m taking a five-minute breather I should step away and come back after the other person’s sets. If I’m sitting and reading a magazine I shouldn’t expect someone to leave a weight machine alone because I’m finishing this article. So I ask, and also take a look around to make sure someone hasn’t just gone to get another weight for that bench.

I try to stand or move where I won’t be in the way. But the gym can get crowded and sometimes we all have to move around people on mats, people lifting weights and doing other exercises. Patience is the key. Then there are the grunters. Granted we all must grunt a bit when we’re at the end of our strength, but I’ve seen a few guys who take weights beyond their measure and grunt and groan loudly throughout the full set. Buddy, you don’t sound macho when you do that. You sound like you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re a screeching monkey.

Equally annoying is the nosey helper. One guy tried to tell the grunter how to lift weights properly. That’s a great boon to all of us. But one day while I was in the middle of a set, this guy says, “Excuse me, excuse me.” I ignored him because he was just sitting on the bench next to me. When I stopped at the end of my set he goes, oh if you do this you’ll strengthen your wrists. I said, I’m not working on my wrists but my triceps. Unwanted, unhelpful information. Interrupting someone during a set can be dangerous. Be polite and wait and don’t give out advice unless you know what you’re talking about.

If everyone tries to be considerate to other patrons, the equipment lasts longer and it just might be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

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Workers Compensation: A Fallacy

There are probably many people reading this who know someone or have themselves experienced a workplace injury and WCB’s attitude toward compensating the worker. In fact, the Workers Compensation Board changed their name to WorkSafe BC, to reflect the greater scope of their reach and because they’re known for not compensating workers, or cutting compensation off arbitrarily.

This could all be hearsay but I do have direct experience. I have had to file twice in my life. The first time was for a repetitive stress injury to the soft tissue of my hand (my fingers and hand swelled) due to writing so much in quintuplicate for the movie industry (with one period that consisted of about 30 hours straight). In this first case, WCB did cover treatments but only until they thought I should be better. A known fact about the human body is that people heal at different rates and many other factors come into play. So I had to somehow manage to get better, without affording the therapy while still working.

The second time was perhaps harder to pinpoint but indicates the arbitrary decision making of case workers. I was working inside underneath three air conditioner vents. I have a couple of conditions, the major one being chronic myofascial pain syndrome (MFS). It is similar to fibromyalgia but more treatable. I can be fine for a long time and then experience a relapse brought on by certain conditions. Then I will proceed into a chronic pain cycle, which can take years to get hrough. I can function but am often in pain all the time.

Myofascial pain can be triggered by various events, some of which are: stress, cold, injury. This means, at the onset a person can try to work through the pain with exercise, which can backfire, causing more trigger point cascades. A trigger point is an area on the body that when pressed refers pain to other areas. People with myofascial pain and fibromyalgia have specific spots on their bodies which will be major trigger points. Each person may not demonstrate pain in all of them but may in most of them. A trigger point is often a hard knot. I’m not a medical expert but from what I’ve read it involves muscle tissue and fascia (the thin membrane that covers muscles [like you see on chicken]). A trigger point cascade can occur where one trigger point starts a progression of spasms and knotting that create other trigger points.

At my worst, I was trying to work out and increased the problem unknowingly. I had trigger point cascades down my arms and back, to the point where I could barely hold a fork or chew. That was an extreme episode that I don’t wish to visit again. Overall, my muscles will spasm and knot up and will forget how to release. I had ten years of chronic pain before the combination of the right muscle relaxant (many painkillers and analgesics don’t always work on this type of pain), a massage therapist who understood how to work with trigger points, and about four months of very warm weather which took me out of the chronic stage.

As I’ve mentioned, stress, injury or cold can trigger myofascial pain. Other conditions can be associated with it, such as Reynaud’s syndrome. Reynaud’s is also called red, white and blue because it will be brought on by cold and the vessels in the extremities (fingers and toes) will constrict, causing the limbs to go from red to white to blue as the blood flow is suppressed. People with this condition will experience sharp, knifelike pain and numbness. I have found, when I experience Reynauds, that the only way to bring circulation back to the extremities is to bring up my core temperature.

I have given these two examples here to wind back to workers compensation. The three air conditioner vents that I was sitting under blew a lot of cold air onto my back. I’m more susceptible to cold, but was the only person in my area who was under three vents (no one was under more than one). Because the muscles tightened up, when I moved suddenly, sitting at my desk, I threw out my back. I was a contract worker so I couldn’t really take time off but I filed a claim. I went to the chiropractor a couple of times but couldn’t afford more than that.

Recognizing that this could be another chronic pain onset, I wanted WCB to cover therapy for a couple of weeks. In all, if I had had treatment right away I could have put off the chronic pain. It would have taken probably a month at most, consisting of chiropractic to adjust my back, and massage to keep the muscles from tightening up and pulling my back out again (believe me, I live with this often, muscles pulling my ribs out while I sleep).

My case worker was on holidays so I talked to someone else first. When the case worker came back, he didn’t even talk to me but denied the claim straight out. I wrote back citing the specialist that had originally diagnosed me. I was willing to be examined, get letters from the specialists about the condition and other documentation if needed. I said that the cold of the air conditioning was the problem and the case worker wrote back and said that cold never hurt anyone. Never. Cold.

I wonder what those people feel who suffer frostbite and hypothermia and die of exposure? One of the best ways to get through myofascial pain is to apply heat, along with therapy. This case worker didn’t consult any medical expert but made his own uninformed arbitrary decision. I would have had to go to a new level to fight this, to get the therapy that was now some time from the onset of the injury. And what else causes myofascial pain? Stress. Having already taken ICBC (our provincial car insurance company) to small claims court for not covering the therapy costs of the injury that originally began my relationship with myofascial pain, I knew how stressful that process was (I won, BTW). I didn’t do it and have spent several years getting out of another bout of chronic pain. And of course all the subsequent visits to my doctor for muscle relaxants (trying to find some that work), the few visits to the therapists, and days I take off work when the pain is too much, or for doctor appointments puts more strain on our health care and system. In the long run, it costs way more than what the initial treatments would have been.

This is just one example of how workers compensation is a fallacy. I have heard far worse stories. And I have only touched the tip of the iceberg on what myofascial pain is all about. It is a more accepted condition these days, very hard to diagnose and many doctors pooh pooh it still.  Wikipedia has a very short entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myofascial_pain_syndrome  And should you have a workplace injury that brings on this condition, you can expect workers compensation to not compensate, to not help you get better, and like many other injured workers, leave you out in the cold.

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